Can Seed Swapping Flourish Online?

SeedLiving seed swapping image
Migrated Image

Most TreeHuggers will tell you that without access to decent, viable seed, and without a system for allowing that seed to develop and adapt, the long-term sustainability of our food system is nigh-on impossible. Yet while some corporations are busy filing patents over soybeans, there are activists, farmers and gardeners around the world who are busy perpetuating and evolving what might be the world's oldest open-source project—seed swapping. From potato day events to online seed exchanges, TreeHugger has featured plenty of venues for would-be seed swappers. Yet somehow we managed to miss one of the most potentially vibrant, versatile and engaging websites for buying, selling and swapping seeds that I, at least, have come across.Based out of Canada, SeedLiving was created with the express goal that "at some point in the future everyone with access to the internet can make a living or supplement their income from open pollinated, untreated seeds and live plants , while, at the same time, promoting and enhancing biodiversity on our planet. The goal of SeedLiving and of buying, selling and swapping open pollinated, untreated seeds and live plants is to augment biodiversity and to foster sustainable living."

Growers create a profile, and then are able to upload seeds for sale, or swapping through the sites exchange function. SeedLiving also features interviews and profiles of well-known growers, chefs and other activists, and news of events and stories of interest to the growing community. In short, it seems like a seed exchange that finally lives up to the potential of the internet. (Given the inherently interactive nature of seed swapping, I'm surprised there aren't more venues like this already.)

The one question I couldn't find answered online are the legal aspects of all this. I believe in the US and Canada, for now, selling and exchanging seeds without being registered is perfectly legal—but that's not the case everywhere in the world. In my native UK, at least at the time I left, it was illegal to exchange seeds for money without first registering as a certified grower. The reasons for this set up were always given as biosecurity and consumer protection, but somehow it always felt like one of those laws that just favored the big guys.

Having experienced one too many disappointment with seeds from the Garden CEnter, I think I'll take my chances with SeedLiving next time.

On Seed Swapping, Biodiversity and Sustainable Agriculture
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